Saturday, 24 December 2011

Captain America - So Damn Likeable

Having missed the chance to see Captain America: The First Avenger in the cinema when it came out, I finally got around to watching it last night – and boy what a pleasant surprise. The title says it all really. Everything about Captain America is so damn likeable!

And by everything I really do mean everything. From the story, to the characters and dialogue, everything is just so… well… likeable!

First off, the casting is a treat. Everyone just fits their parts to a tee. Who better to have as a baddie than Hugo Weaving? Hayley Atwell refuses to just simple be the love interest and mixes a delicate vulnerability to her tough girl exterior. Tommy Lee Jones is perfect as the battle-worn Colonel, snappy but with a good heart. Dominic Cooper more than just a cameo appearance with his (foreshadowing his son Tony’s) suave and boyishly cheeky engineer and entrepreneur Howard Stark. Toby Jones and Stanley Tucci (lets face it - always good in whatever they are in) playing up to their roles effortlessly. Every performance is pitch perfect.

This leaves us with Chris Evans. There was a bit of concern prior to release of the film – (he now plays two Marvel characters, Johnny Storm AND Captain America?) but now as far as I am concerned he is no longer the fiery Fantastic Four member but is Steve Rogers. With his earnest desire to do good in the world and standing up to protect the ‘little man’, he inhabits the character perfectly with an old timey sense of morality rather than a misguided blind patriotism that the character could have embodied.

It was great that they worked the emergence of his character into the story so you can see why his character is like that: being bullied as a skinny weakling (the skinny Steve Rogers CGI trickery still amazes me) and his sense of showmanship and panache (and choice of costume) coming from his earlier work in a war bond selling propaganda stage show.

Like X-Men: First Class, having the film as a period piece was a stroke of genius and evokes a definite style and atmosphere implicit in the respective time period. Back in the Golden Age of comics, Captain America did indeed fight Nazis and so it makes sense that his origin story reflected an aspect of that. The existence of the power cube MacGuffin and the advanced technologies of Hydra and Stark Industries also allows for a bit of anachronistic future tech to be included in this portrayal of the 1940s putting a fresh spin on the production design evoking a past/future mash up similar to that of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

On paper, Captain America runs the risk of being a bit of a hokey, 'American as apple pie' character (lets try to forget the terrible 90's adaptation), but the film finds ways to work around this and the genuinely charming script and warming character interactions evokes the golden hue of innocence and escapism of old school superhero comics, making this in my opinion, one of the most sensitively handled comic book adaptations I have ever seen. There were just so many moments that made me grin like I was being back to a little boy.

As stated earlier, everything is just so likeable.

That being said, Captain America is not a film without its flaws. Although starting off as a total badass, the villain Red Skull is not given much to do later on in the film except scowl and run away a lot and despite being presented as a great threat, never really feels like one. His death was a bit low key and slightly disappointing also. The gang of soldiers the Captain recruits seemed to feel a bit like ticking ethnic stereotype boxes and occasionally some CGI was a bit rough around the edges in some action scenes.

Having said that, these are minor flaws in an otherwise complete package of a film – one that also succeeds in neatly leading up to the upcoming Avengers movie. Similar to Thor there are many story links and hints of things to come, most obviously the bittersweet ending to the film that segues in nicely.

The Avengers seems an even more exciting prospect to me now especially since you have all these big characters (with large personalities to match) occupying the same celluloid space.

As mentioned in a previous article, Thor was a decent movie adaptation but I never really had any doubts that Kenneth Branagh could pull it off. However, Captain America proved to be a genuine surprise to me as it greatly exceeded my expectations. Props to Joe Johnston for that – you will definitely be seeing The First Avenger in my top ten films of the 2011.

24 Dec 2011

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